August

Charles Dickens could sum up the month of August in one phrase, but I owe you more than that.  For now, here is a summary of our most significant events…

Dh told me to cancel all commitments for a weekend and we escaped to the cool WA coast (high of 69 degrees) in the midst of a 100 degree week here at home. Cold ocean waters numb ankle pain and there is nothing quite like sitting in a beach chair, watching the waves and letting the wind whip your mind clear of stress and worries. Sometimes I wish I lived at the beach. There are photos to share in another post.
We paused to pick blueberries on the way home, and I regret that I did not pull out the camera. The bushes were laden with ripe berries and the hardest part was stopping when our bag was full, because there were so many more berries to be picked.

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Dh again told me to cancel all commitments on August 21st but not in so many words and not for an escape to the coast. That morning during the eclipse, he suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage. He never hit his head, never blacked out, but sudden intense pain was not a good thing and even though he didn’t present typical stroke signs like you would see with a brain aneurysm,  he knew where he needed to go. If you ever suddenly find yourself with the worst headache of your entire life, get thee to the ER immediately! In his case, SuperDad had been exercising with a CrossFit maneuver — jumping rope with “double-unders” — and apparently tore a vein in his brain.  The brain bleed was diagnosed by CT scan at the ER, and the staff began making arrangements to transfer him to a neurological ICU; however, there were no open beds in this specialty in our area. Instead, we found ourselves on a Life Flight to Seattle and ten nights at Swedish Medical Center, with 8 of those nights in the Neuro Critical Care Unit. (Fun times. NOT.)  Honestly, I lost count of the number of CT scans, although I’m sure our insurance will be getting a detailed account for billing purposes.  Two angiograms. One MRI. Daily Doppler ultrasounds to track blood flow changes while on vasospasm watch.
When the high danger of repeated incidents passed, we were sent upstairs to a neuro floor (not ICU) for our 2 final nights of the 10-night stay. While there his medications were adjusted so he could go home (no more IV rescue meds for pain control). We were able to return home on the last day of August.

How anyone goes through such an event without incredible support from others — support in really tangible ways, like deliveries of food and clothing, toiletries and prescription medications for the caregiver (me); support in less tangible ways, such as prayer; the downright drudgery support in making sure pets at home are fed and watered, garbage and recycling cans dragged to the curb — I will never be able to understand how anyone possibly do well in recovery and healing without that support on many levels.  I didn’t even consider work, aside from letting people know what was happening; others took care of getting the job done in my absence. Family and friends ensured that we had what we needed, including the 5+ hour ride home. There was no way I was in any shape to drive, not withstanding the fact that we’d ridden in a small plane to Seattle ten days before.

At this point, the headaches have lessened as the blood has been moved away from the hemorrhage site. Thanks to efficient cerebral spinal fluid, his lower back, hips, and hamstrings are tight and painful (blood anywhere it shouldn’t be causes nerves to freak out) but this also tells us we are nearing the end of needing pain medications.  Once he’s off the pain meds, we hope the brain processing and vision issues clear up. (I had this experience while on strong pain medications a few years ago.)  His prognosis is very, very good. If you have to have blood in your brain, this was the very best option: no aneurysm, no clots, no visible damage via scans.

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In other news, our PCT hiker is now in his final section of the trail (the penultimate section for those who have the time to go all the way to the end) and I expect to be able to pick him up next weekend. We saw H-J nearly every day while in the hospital; he is content with work while waiting for his final 2 classes to be offered in the spring. School started on Thursday when The Scout began his senior year (no first day photo because he was here and his parents were in Seattle at the hospital). His head still hurts after 14 months; he’s currently undergoing a series of acupuncture treatments.
Since it is fire season, our air is tinged (and sometimes filled) with smoke and the light is filtered through the haze.  I cannot see the hills in the distance this afternoon; we are enveloped in a white cloud of smoke.
I return to work tomorrow, although I may be splitting my time between the office and home (via my laptop). I’m grateful for that flexibility.

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Let there be light!

at-least-it-is-sunny

The groundhog saw his shadow today. Frankly, I didn’t need Punxsutawney Phil to tell me anything — the flamingos have been doing a pretty good job of letting us know what’s up around here, and it isn’t the temperature!

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The Scout had his MRI last week and we’re still waiting for the results. (SuperDad has put a call in to the doctor.)  Honestly, I’ll be surprised if it tells us anything at all. I have to keep reminding myself that he had a really horrid fall and it’s going to take more time to recover. It was encouraging last week to hear his teachers tell of seeing “more of him” lately, that more often now when he is in class he is managing to have that light on behind his eyes instead of a glazed-over look.

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After a weekend of low stress and winter camping — where he felt relatively good and hardly needed extra rest time at all — he figured out that the anxiety over trying to accomplish all of his schoolwork is stressing his system. So on Monday when he went to school, The Scout met with his guidance counselor (the same one who helped us get the 504 Accommodation Plan set in place) and requested that he be allowed to drop two of his classes — Spanish 2 and Calculus. Bless her, she worked to make that happen. He has been able to attend school every day this week because he has some built-in “down time” where he can catch up on assignments or take a break in a quiet alcove or even take a nap in the nurse’s office.

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Having my teenager engage in conversation with us is a blessing that I cannot take for granted. When the pain in his head (which he describes as “a hot iron pressing against my skull”) subsides enough to let him be his normal cheerful self, with a sense of humor and light in his eyes, I know how lucky we are.

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Icy Feathered Hope

We’ve been in a deep freeze. Weather changes are coming, I can feel it in my hardware.
The Resident Teen also suffers, but there is no rhyme or known reason for when his setbacks occur.   dscn1517-cropped-macro-4x6

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
by Emily Dickinson
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A parent, apparently

Last Tuesday afternoon found us at the neurology department for a follow-up visit for The Scout. We didn’t know it at the time, but he was starting a week of misery despite taking it easy for two weeks over the school winter holiday.
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“Concussion recovery is not linear” …yada yada yada. I get it. But let’s look for something more, shall we? Because at this point, it’s been SIX MONTHS. (This is why I came along, to light a few proverbial fires.) We left with promises of an MRI and a back X-ray.
Yesterday I took The Scout in for his physical (a requirement for these new exams) and we were able to get the X-rays while we were at the clinic. It’s slightly entertaining to see the faces of medical professionals when they hear that this teenager fell 23 feet onto his back. He landed inches away from a rock poking up out of the ground (we live near jagged basalt formations) and not far from broken tree stumps. He’s a walking miracle, and I am infinitely grateful.  By the time we slogged through the snowy roads and settled in again at home, SuperDad had been called with the results from the radiologist. (That was fast!)

So, those X-ray results: at some point in the past — six months ago? Ten years ago? No one knows — this boy had a broken back. It’s fairly high up, where he hasn’t had any distinct pain (?!?) and not where he says he landed, but it’s definitely a break that healed over.  My jaw might have dropped.
It’s a clue without being an answer.  His lower back gets stiff when he’s sat for too long and when he first gets up in the morning, but he hasn’t had back pain since July. Crazy.

Now we await the insurance approval and MRI appointment. In the meantime, the medication prescribed by neurology for nighttime has been doubled (let’s try it, why not?) and we’ve been trying a triple-whammy for bad days: Tylenol plus ibuprofen plus aspirin. Sometimes we sneak a little caffeine in there (hey, it works for my headaches).

There’s no rhyme or reason, no pattern for his bad days vs. good days. Activity can be a link but it’s not causal. Sometimes he’s in pain, sometimes it’s just an inability to concentrate or focus, and sometimes he’s fine.

This week has been a much better week for The Scout. He woke up early and hopped in the shower on Monday morning before 6:00 a.m. Unfortunately, school was canceled on Monday due to our weather situation (a rarity here) so he didn’t get to take advantage of a truly good day for his recovering body.  He went to class today, and even went to karate this evening; he can’t do much there, but at least he can keep up on his kata.

Not to let the teenager get all the medical attention, I went to the dentist this morning. In an effort to stave off periodontal disease, I underwent a deep cleaning on the right side of my mouth. Since it is painful process (hello, below-the-gum-line scouring), Novocaine is given…and given. Apparently I don’t numb easily. The hygienist lost count after 9 pokes, but we’re pretty sure it was around 13 injections. I’m a bit sore this evening. Lucky me, I get to go back in a few weeks for the left side of my mouth. (That will also be a work day, with the fun of answering the phone while swollen like a chipmunk .)

It looks like January is the month for appointments around here.
Maybe I’ll even finally get my colonoscopy, but I’m not holding my breath about that one — the office still hasn’t called me back. Perhaps I’ll have the opportunity to be done with antibiotic oral rinses before cleaning out the other end of the digestive cycle.  Getting older is not for wimps.

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a treat. Related to none of the above, here’s a cute picture of Little Foot on Christmas Eve.

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One year later

dislocated left ankle, one of these things is not like the other

Both legs are stretched out straight, and both feet should be pointed in same direction… but one of these things is NOT like the other…

Today is my “breakiversary” — one year ago, I broke my ankle so severely that people gasp when they see the x-ray of the repair.

K's left ankle x-ray, webshare

The trimalleolar fracture has healed but the metal remains.

Most of the time, I do not need a cane — I keep it in the car for walking on uneven surfaces and for days when I am sore and tired. I can go up and down stairs if there is a sturdy railing.  I do still take the cane with me to the YMCA pool; locker room floors and poolside walking make me nervous. The fear of slipping and falling is stronger than my confidence level.

I’m doing better with pain control these days. I’m wearing compression socks or stockings  which really do help. I’ve learned to rest and elevate in advance of activities, not just after the fact. I’ve discovered that I can have a couple of busy days in a row before I have to take significant time off my feet. I can power through the pain when necessary but the price is twofold: I will have trouble concentrating and thinking clearly, so everything takes longer, and I will pay for it with increased need for subsequent rest. I no longer spend much time with my leg elevated above my heart (unless the ankle is really swollen) but I still prop it up on a spare chair and a pillow at the dining room table and I do spend quite a bit of time at home either on the chaise lounge portion of the sofa or on my bed.

One year ago today I went from mobile to immobilized. What I live with now may be my not-so-happily-ever-after or perhaps it could slowly get a little bit better. But I can walk — and that is more than I was promised one year ago.

Sads and Glads

I’ve got a “glad” and a “sad” to share tonight.

First the sad: I finally had an appointment with an orthopaedic doctor to talk about my continued swelling and pain, and even some new (in past 2 months) pain from my hardware-infused ankle which I broke on 11/13/15 and had repaired on 11/25/15. I thought perhaps some screws had worked themselves out a little bit and getting them removed would help, but NO. Everything looks exactly the same as it did post surgery and the pain is “just” (supposedly) traumatized tissue and irritated nerves. In other words, it’s my new life. Terrific. [insert tearful sarcasm] The doc, who was nearly young enough to be my son, suggested compression stockings — which I will purchase and wear when the weather cools down enough to stop wearing sandals — but he couldn’t suggest any pain relief. I had tears in my eyes when I stopped to chat with his assistant (who remembered me from my long ordeal and many visits over the winter) and she offered sympathy which was nice. Honestly, I wanted to have a good cry and a couple of strong beverages but I had a meeting to prepare for this evening.

Hopefully this is all just for peace of mind (worth it!)

A dime-sized piece removed is small payment for peace of mind.

And for the glad: I hadn’t heard back from the dermatology office about my biopsy results, so I stopped in on my way back to work. The good news is that while the strange spot on my cheek was 2 different things (both common but not usually one on top of the other in the same space) it isn’t cancer. That cheered me up just enough to get through the evening meeting spent with my foot resting on a chair and ankle encased in a cold gel pack. I’ve since come home and had a glass of wine. Now it’s off to bed with a melatonin pill and a wish for decent sleep before going back to work in 10 hours.

Your turn… do you have any sads and glads to share?

Wilderness in the City

SuperDad has been playing Pokemon GO — which I find somewhat amusing and only slightly annoying. His phone is the only one in the entire family that can support the game but we all joined him in exploring a new-to-us city park on Sunday evening.
DSCN0649 Upper Lincoln Park, resized

The upper portion of the park has been primarily left in its natural state.

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DSCN0669 Peek-a-boo Lincoln Park pond, resized

Peek-a-boo view of the natural pond

DSCN0635 Lincoln Park pond, resized

DSCN0634  Reflection, Lincoln Park pond duck, resizedIt is easy to forget you are in the middle of a city residential area while walking through this park. It was established in 1913.

Beacon Hill, left foreground, and Mt. Spokane, right background

DSCN0644 Hiker's view, upper Lincoln Park, resizedThe view from the cliff wasn’t too shabby either.  The zoomed-in photo shows Mt. Spokane in the far distance to the right (the bare portion is the ski area), and Beacon Hill (which had a fire burning on the back side of it just one week ago) is on the left — it received its name from the lights that shine from the tips of the signal towers at night.

DSCN0689 Moses and Boy, Lincoln Park, cropped, resized   Moses was happy to be with his boys. I imagine that both he and The Barefooter walked a little gingerly on the basalt trails.
DSCN0683 late summer, upper Lincoln Park, resized

I didn’t need to use a cane for the flat road that rimmed the upper park, but it was needed and helpful for the trails and downhill sections.

DSCN0691 Lower Lincoln Park, rest rooms, size comparison, rock, evening sun, resized, cropped 4x6

Behind this large boulder is a timber-and-rock restroom, built in the early days of the park.

DSCN0697 Lincoln Park house for sale, websizedThe lower park had lush green grass, a playground, restroom, and picnic tables. By this point my ankle was done (nine months post surgery and I continue to be very limited in activities), so I walked to the edge to sit and wait for the others to bring the car around.

Before driving home, we admired (from a safe distance) this home for sale. It is only a block down the street from the traditional portion of the park and it backs up to the cliff on which the upper park is situated. Designed by architect Kirkland Cutter and built in 1916, it has 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, and 6,200+ square footage on 3.16 acres. The woodwork is exquisite, the setting is private and there’s even a guest house. It can be yours for 1.18 million dollars.

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Then we drove home and appreciated our own humble abode and the sunset sky. The view is free.

It could be worse…

DSCN2529  Bruised toes, and this is my GOOD foot!Was it just 2 weeks ago I was nursing sore toes on my right foot? Apparently my left foot was jealous because in my sleep I somehow managed to jam or pull or otherwise bruise/sprain the littlest toe on my left foot (my FULF as Barb so succinctly puts it) prior to waking up on Wednesday morning. It’s too ugly to show you a picture, but I can assure you it’s really purple and coordinates nicely with my purple nail polish. (Maybe I do need to take a picture?)  And yes, it hurts.
It’s all adding insult to injury since I’ve also been having additional ankle pain — this time on my outer left ankle. The current suspicion is that the hardware on that side (one long plate, 6 screws) is somehow irritating the more natural parts of me.

I did manage to get out and about last weekend, putting at least 800 miles on the minivan (124,000 and counting) all by myself. My ankle truly hates me for all of that driving. (I’ve been hating my ankle lately, so the feeling is mutual)  On Friday I drove to Seattle for a quick visit with H-J. I got to see the lab where he is working this summer and I took him out to dinner at Ivar’s on Lake Union. It was one of those nights that makes a person love Seattle even if it is crowded: so many boats out on the lake full of happy people, beautiful weather, drawbridges allowing passage for the larger boats, evening glow on the buildings downtown.  After dropping my university student off at his place (college students, please don’t leave your dirty dishes in your room… science experiments belong in the laboratory!) I drove to my friend Annie’s house for 2 nights to celebrate her 50th birthday and recent home purchase.  This was the most relaxing part of the weekend, with little to do but a bit of cleaning, cutting up vegetables, drinking wine, and chatting with old friends while elevating my FULF. 

Is it wrong to high-five friends over mutually crummy injuries? We must be getting old. Next we’ll be talking about fiber supplements! Oh, wait…

Sleeping baby on my chest while mama gets allergy testing

Slightly feverish baby sleeping on my chest. I love him so much!

Sunday morning I slept in a bit, then packed up and drove back across the state, but not home — instead I drove to spend 2 nights with The Author and Little Foot. No new pictures because Mama was getting allergy testing done on Monday morning, baby was feverish and couldn’t go to daycare, and Daddy was out of town at a conference in another state. LF’s other grandma was able to come on Monday afternoon and stay for the week, so she’s still there now. It’s no fun to have a sick baby but the timing is great. The Author works for the university and it would be difficult to take time off right now as they are gearing up for fall courses.

cobalt blue lanyard

My blue lanyard: made it to sell, loved it too much and kept it

Tuesday morning I dropped my DIL off at work (hello, $15 per day parking? No, thank you!) and drove 90 minutes back home straight to work for me, too — only to discover I had left my lanyard with work keys at home. SuperDad to the rescue! He brought my work keys and my lunch to me. I was very grateful. He also went to the store and purchased several gallons of ice cream for the neighborhood block watch party held in our driveway that evening. I had enough time between the end of my work day and the start of the party to ice and elevate for 45 minutes on my bed. My ankle hates me and was badly swollen all day.

I’ve made an appointment (first one I could get, at the earliest time available) for August 18th. I’m hoping for some answers as to why I’m having “new” pain 8 months after surgery. By the time I see my PCM, it will be more than 9 months since injury. Did I mention that my ankle hates me?

January highlights

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Little Foot at age 6 weeks

  • Two weeks ago, my sweet SIL and her middle son came to visit, and of course we drove the 160 miles (’round trip) to see the newest family member. I am so in love with this little boy.
  • Once I could put weight on my booted foot, I worked up to being able to hobble to the van, balance while folding up the walker and stashing it by the back seat, and getting myself into the driver’s seat — and then reversing the process. Ah, the freedom of driving oneself! Obviously, all of this had to be done without pain medications. The physical therapist uses a combination of ice and heat at the same time at the end of our twice-a-week sessions, and I’ve been doing this at home as well. It keeps me from freezing the internal hardware while still relieving pain.
  • I’ve gone from hopping with the assistance of a walker to actually walking with a walker; a few times, I’ve even forgotten to use the walker and taken steps without it! All of this while wearing a walking boot, of course. I am not yet allowed to put any weight on my left foot without being strapped into the boot.
  •  It’s been over two months since I had surgery for my trimalleolar fracture. Some things I can do on my own now, but I continue to need assistance getting safely into the shower chair and working in the kitchen is challenging.  Still, I plan to transition back to work in the next week or so.
  • The teenager is taking one of his classes online and my laptop is the only computer in the house that has the necessary voice capabilities for his Spanish homework. This has meant that my evening and weekend time online is sporadic.

Here’s a little something extra for you: “January” by Elton John.